Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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Crump applied for social security disability benefits based on her long history of numerous mental health impairments, including bipolar disorder and polysubstance abuse disorder. An administrative law judge denied benefits, finding that Crump, despite her severe impairments, could perform work limited to simple and repetitive tasks. The district court affirmed. The Seventh Circuit vacated. The ALJ did not adequately account for Crump’s difficulties with concentration, persistence, or pace in the workplace. An ALJ generally may not rely merely on catch-all terms like “’simple, repetitive tasks’” because there is no basis to conclude that they account for problems of concentration, persistence or pace. In addition, observing that a person can perform simple and repetitive tasks says nothing about whether the individual can do so on a sustained basis. Beyond disregarding the Vocational Expert’s opinion in response to a second hypothetical, the ALJ gave short shrift to the medical opinions of Crump’s treating psychiatrist. View "Crump v. Saul" on Justia Law

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Chronis visited the University of Illinois Health Center for an examination that included a pap smear. Chronis alleges the procedure caused her pain and bruising. She claims that the Center did not return her calls or allow her to make a follow‐up appointment. Chronis filed an unsuccessful complaint with the Center’s grievance committee, requesting $332 for expenses that she incurred because of the injury. Chronis then sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, requesting assistance concerning documented ignorance of policy and procedures. Though her letter mentioned her injuries, it focused on the Center’s lack of responsiveness. She included a general statement that she wanted assistance in “receiving the restitution.” Chronis attached roughly 60 pages of documents, one of which mentioned that Chronis had previously sought $332. CMS directed her to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to file a formal complaint and invited Chronis to follow up for additional assistance. Six months later, Chronis filed a pro se complaint, alleging malpractice. Because the Center receives funds from the Public Health Service, the United States substituted itself as the defendant and removed the case to proceed under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 42 U.S.C. 233; 28 U.S.C. 1346. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case because Chronis had not exhausted her administrative remedies in that she had failed to first present her claim to the appropriate federal agency. Her letter to CMS did not meet this requirement of making an administrative demand. View "Chronis v. United States" on Justia Law

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Krell, a former ironworker, applied for Social Security disability benefits. Krell was notified that a vocational expert would testify at his hearing and that Krell had the right to request a subpoena for documents or testimony “that you reasonably need to present your case.” Krell’s counsel requested a subpoena to require the vocational expert to produce documents upon which the expert may rely in forming opinions, including statistics, reports, surveys, summaries, work product, and a description of the methodologies used by publishers or compilers of the statistics. The ALJ did not respond. At the hearing, the ALJ denied the request, reasoning that it had not specified what the documents would show and why these facts could not be shown without a subpoena and that counsel could challenge the testimony post‐hearing. During cross‐examination, the vocational expert stated that to determine available job numbers, he relied on Wisconsin occupational projections produced by the Department of Workforce Development. Krell made no post‐hearing challenge. The ALJ found that Krell was disabled and entitled to benefits, but only as of 2014, rather than 2011. Based on the expert’s testimony, the ALJ concluded that up to 2014, Krell was able to perform work existing in significant numbers in the economy. The Social Security Appeals Council denied review. The district court concluded that the ALJ had erred in denying Krell’s subpoena request. The Seventh Circuit reversed. While Krell’s case was pending, the Supreme Court held (Biestek) that a vocational expert is not categorically required to produce his supporting data. Krell advanced no reason why it was necessary for the expert to produce his underlying sources. View "Krell v. Saul" on Justia Law

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In 2005 Paramount leased a parcel of highway-adjacent property in Bellwood, Illinois, planning to erect a billboard. Paramount never applied for a local permit. When Bellwood enacted a ban on new billboard permits in 2009, Paramount lost the opportunity to build its sign. Paramount later sought to take advantage of an exception to the ban for village-owned property, offering to lease a different parcel of highway-adjacent property directly from Bellwood. Bellwood accepted an offer from Image, one of Paramount’s competitors. Paramount sued Bellwood and Image, alleging First Amendment, equal-protection, due-process, Sherman Act, and state-law violations. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Paramount lost its lease while the suit was pending, which mooted its claim for injunctive relief from the sign ban. The claim for damages was time-barred, except for an alleged equal-protection violation. That claim failed because Paramount was not similarly situated to Image; Paramount offered Bellwood $1,140,000 in increasing installments over 40 years while Image offered a lump sum of $800,000. Bellwood and Image are immune from Paramount’s antitrust claims. The court did not consider whether a market-participant exception to that immunity exists because Paramount failed to support its antitrust claims. View "Paramount Media Group, Inc. v. Village of Bellwood" on Justia Law

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American, a Cincinnati-based title insurance company, is owned by attorneys Yonas and Rink. The Indiana Department of Insurance randomly audited American and found hundreds of code violations, none of which American denies. Examiners recommended a fine of $70,082 plus $42,202 in consumer reimbursements after deviating upward from the guidelines recommendation. After negotiation, the examiners refused to adjust the fines and added a new sanction: the owners would lose their licenses to do business in Indiana. The Department’s attorney informed American that it could seek administrative review but could face the maximum fine of $9.5 million. American agreed to the recommended sanctions, “voluntarily and freely waive[d] the right to judicial review,” and paid the fees. Yonas and Rink gave up their licenses. Months later, American sued the Department’s Commissioner, Robertson, alleging that the Department imposed higher penalties because American is based in Ohio, not Indiana. American’s equal-protection case rested on expert testimony based on a statistical analysis that found that when the Department audits out-of-state companies, it tends to deviate more from its guidelines than when it audits in-state companies; a comment by a Department examiner made during a recorded phone call; and that Robertson was unable to say definitively during his deposition that no one in his department was motivated by in-state bias. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Robertson without reaching the equal protection claim. American offered no meaningful reason to ignore the agreed order. View "American Homeland Title Agency, Inc. v. Robertson" on Justia Law

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Schaumburg’s 2016 ordinance requires commercial buildings to send fire‐alarm signals directly to the local 911 dispatch center, NWCDS, which has an exclusive arrangement with Tyco. To send signals to NWCDS, local buildings must use Tyco equipment. Schaumburg’s notice of the ordinance referred to connection through Tyco and stated that accounts would be charged $81 per month to rent Tyco’s radio transmitters and for the monitoring service. Tyco pays NWCDS an administrative fee of $23 per month for each account it connects to the NWCDS equipment. Tyco’s competitors filed suit charging violations of constitutional, antitrust, and state tort law. The district court dismissed the case. The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of the Contracts Clause claim against Schaumburg. The complaint alleges a potentially significant impairment, the early cancellation of the competitors’ contracts, and Schaumburg’s self‐interest, $300,000 it stands to gain. The court otherwise affirmed, noting that entities not alleged to have taken legislative action cannot be liable under the Contracts Clause. WIth respect to constitutional claims, the court noted the government’s important interest in fire safety. Rejecting antitrust claims, the court stated that the complaint did not allege a prohibited agreement, as opposed to an independent, legislative decision. View "Alarm Detection Systems, Inc. v. Village of Schaumburg" on Justia Law

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Four Illinois Villages passed ordinances that require commercial buildings to send fire-alarm signals directly to the local 911 dispatch center through one alarm-system provider, Tyco, which services the area pursuant to an exclusive agreement with the dispatch center. An alarm-system competitor, ADS, sued, citing the Illinois Fire Protection District Act, the Sherman Act, and the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Sherman Act claims fail because they are premised on the unilateral actions of the Villages, which ADS did not sue. The court noted that ADS can compete for the contract now held by Tyco. ADS’s substantive due process claim asserted that the district acted arbitrarily and irrationally by going with an exclusive provider rather than entertaining ADS’s efforts at alternative, methods. The ordinances effectively require the district to work with an exclusive provider and there was thus a rational basis to choose an exclusive provider. View "Alarm Detection Systems, Inc. v. Orland Fire Protection District" on Justia Law

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GL services repayment of Nelson's federally-insured student loans. On its website, GL tells borrowers struggling to make their loan payments: “Our trained experts work on your behalf,” and “You don’t have to pay for student loan services or advice,” because “Our expert representatives have access to your latest student loan information and understand all of your options.” Nelson alleged that when she and other members of the putative class struggled to make payments, GL steered borrowers into repayment plans that were to its advantage and to borrowers’ detriment. She alleged violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, constructive fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. The district court dismissed the claims as preempted by a federal Higher Education Act provision: “Loans made, insured, or guaranteed pursuant to a program authorized by ... the Higher Education Act ... shall not be subject to any disclosure requirements of any State Law,” 20 U.S.C. 1098g. The Seventh Circuit vacated. When a loan servicer holds itself out as having experts who work for borrowers, tells borrowers that they need not look elsewhere for advice, and tells them that its experts know what options are in their best interest, those statements, when untrue, are not mere failures to disclose information but are affirmative misrepresentations. A borrower who reasonably relied on them to her detriment is not barred from bringing state‐law consumer protection and tort claims. View "Nelson v. Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Chicago's Code permits the city to immobilize and impound a vehicle if its owner has three or more “final determinations of liability,” or two final determinations that are over a year old, “for parking, standing, compliance, automated traffic law enforcement system, or automated speed enforcement system violation[s].” Fines range from $25 to $500. Failure to pay the fine within 25 days automatically doubles the penalty. After a vehicle is impounded, the owner is further subjected to towing and storage fees and to the city’s costs and attorney’s fees. A 2016 amendment created a possessory lien in favor of the city in the amount required to obtain the vehicle's release. Chicago began refusing to release impounded vehicles to debtors who had filed Chapter 13 petitions. In each of four consolidated cases, the bankruptcy courts each held that Chicago violated the automatic stay by “exercising control” over bankruptcy estate property and that none of the exceptions to the stay applied. The courts ordered the city to return debtors’ vehicles and imposed sanctions for violating the stay. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that it addressed the issue in 2009 and held that a creditor must comply with the automatic stay and return a debtor’s vehicle upon her filing of a bankruptcy petition. View "City of Chicago v. Fulton" on Justia Law

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Lopez-Aguilar went to the Indianapolis Marion County Courthouse for a hearing on a misdemeanor complaint charging him with driving without a license. Officers of the Sheriff’s Department informed him that an ICE officer had come to the courthouse earlier that day looking for him. He alleges that Sergeant Davis took him into custody. Later that day, Lopez-Aguilar appeared in traffic court and resolved his misdemeanor charge with no sentence of incarceration. Sergeant Davis nevertheless took Lopez-Aguilar into custody. He was transferred to ICE the next day. Neither federal nor state authorities charged Lopez-Aguilar with a crime; he did not appear before a judicial officer. ICE subsequently released him on his own recognizance. An unspecified “immigration case” against Lopez-Aguilar was pending when he sued county officials under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Following discovery, the parties settled the case. The district court approved the Stipulated Judgment over the objection of the federal government and denied Indiana’s motion to intervene to appeal. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The state’s motion to intervene was timely and fulfilled the necessary conditions for intervention of right. The district court was without jurisdiction to enter prospective injunctive relief. The Stipulated Judgment interferes directly and substantially with the use of state police power to cooperate with the federal government in the enforcement of immigration laws. View "Lopez-Aguilar v. Indiana" on Justia Law